Friday, October 30, 2009

Can't Contain Myself

It's the day before Halloween.

Living where we do in the country we don't have trick-or-treaters. But our church is having a "Trunk or Treat" tomorrow in the late afternoon so all the trick-or-treaters will still have plenty of time to do their house-to-house trick-or-treating.

It's the 1st year our church has done a Trunk-or-Treat and I was SO excited when it was announced. I haven't ever even attended a Trunk-or-Treat before but I immediately started thinking of ideas for decorations. I lean more toward the cutesy decorations because the little spooks are the ones I enjoy the most - and I sure don't want to scare them!

AD and I thought of G1 and G2 and their race cars! We talked to our Youth Minister and he thought it would be a great idea to do a racing theme and put their turf cars in the space we'd have.

Then the downer - the boys' last races of the season was scheduled for - you guessed it - Halloween. But as it turned out, the track owner planned to include a Trunk-or-Treat at the track. We would still get to enjoy the little ghosts and goblins.

I contacted our Youth Minister and told him not to expect us. He totally understood and said maybe there would be another event that would lend itself to race cars sometime.

So then yesterday it rained - and it rained - and it rained! The races were cancelled.

When we found out about the cancellation I made a hasty call to our Youth Minister to see if there was possibly a space left that we might have. He said they'd make room if they had to.

So everything is back on and I can't wait to see all the kiddos. And give out treats.

And of course have my camera at the ready too.

Happy Spooking!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

They Weren't New Toys For Me?

I just don't know where I went wrong. There were these pretty orange balls in what I thought was a toy box on the front porch. The balls weren't very round though. Maybe that should have been a clue.

It turns out they were really fall decorations. Who woulda thunk it?

Well, maybe my friend, Cosmo. He laid way out in the front yard watching all the fun I was having throwing some of them up in the air and catching them. Cosmo didn't even act like he wanted to play with them or me. It was LOTS of fun until Granny looked out the window and saw what I was doing.

She came outside and she WAS laughing. But she picked them up and took them in the house. I thought maybe because some of the parts had broken off. So I just got another one out of the box and was starting to play with it. Then she came back out and took it and the others in the house too.

I'm REALLY sorry!

That's ok, Mikey. Daughter told me she thought you would probably eat them. But you don't bother the flowers and I didn't think you could get them out of the baby bed anyway.

It was probably the smell of the olive oil that I rubbed on them to shine them up a little. That's probably what attracted you to them.

Not to worry, Mikey. I was going to cut them open eventually anyway. I want to see if I can save the seeds and plant them next year.

Does anyone know if that's possible?

It's probably a good thing that I hadn't gotten that scarecrow made that I was going to set in the bed too.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Favorite Things About My Kitchen

Everyone has pretty much clued in that I really love to cook. There were tons of new ideas out there when we were building and I was deciding on what I wanted in a kitchen.

Of course most of the ones I would have loved to have had were pretty much out of our price range but that's ok. I really love my kitchen - I love not only cooking in it but I love just being in that room of the house. Someone once said that the heart of the home is the kitchen and I really believe it.

My top 5 favorites about my kitchen are:

5. Space! There can actually be more than 1 person in the kitchen at a time. Our last kitchen was very small and if someone was in there with me we'd keep getting into each other's way.

4. The pantry. I love having all of my dry and canned goods in one place rather than in several cabinets. I love the pantry door too!

3. Nope - the pan on the stove top is not my favorite thing although it belongs to a wonderful set of pans. The vent comes in at #3. The person who came up with the concept of a vent rising up out of the counter top is a genius! That paved the way for me to have the kitchen wall open onto the living room which lets me watch tv or visit with any guests we might have while I'm cooking .

2. My double oven. Oh, so nice when I'm baking lots of cookies or preparing a big meal like Thanksgiving dinner.

And my Number 1 favorite thing is . . . .

The cabinet for all of my baking sheets, cutting boards and stoneware. This space is above the ovens and if there were shelves there it would be pretty much wasted space for me. I would have to climb a ladder to reach anything and if I really had to go to that much work to go get a ladder, climb it and find something - well, the old saying "Out of sight, out of mind" comes at this point.

Storing things like large baking sheets on their side and just sliding them in and out is wonderfully perfect for me. I can reach that far up.

What are your favorite thing(s) about your kitchen?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

3 Recipes

Last week I mentioned some recipes that I'd entered in cooking competitions during Witchy Weekend. I had some requests for the recipes so here they are.

One year I received 3rd place for Dear Abby's Pecan Pie. You can find it various places on the internet but for convenience I've linked to it here.

There are a few things that I do differently. I use light brown sugar instead of dark brown (personal taste preference) and margarine instead of butter (although butter would be yummy!). I don't usually measure my pecans. I just throw enough on to cover the pie.

For those who live in Oklahoma - I use Griffin's Crystal White Corn Syrup. For some reason the Karo brand has never worked for me - not only for this recipe but for others that I've tried. And No, I'm not related to the Griffin family - at least that I know of and assuming there is one. It's just the brand that works for me.

Another year I took 2nd place for Italian Cream Cake. The recipe I've used for a number of years can be found here. I make it exactly as shown.

The year that I managed to nab 1st place was the year I made Pasta Fagioli. The recipe I use came from a church luncheon I attended several years ago. My family has this several times over the fall and winter months.

Pasta Fagioli

1 lb. ground beef
1 cup chopped onion
2 cloves minced garlic
1 (30 ounce) jar Ragu chunky garden-style spaghetti sauce with mushrooms and peppers
1 (10 1/2 ounce) can beef broth
2 cups water
1 cup sliced celery (I leave this out because of family taste preferences)
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 (10 ounce) can Ro-Tel tomatoes with green chilies
1 can white Northern beans, drained and rinsed
1 can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 shredded carrot
3/4 cup dry pasta shells, cooked according to package directions

Cook ground beef, onion and garlic in a large pot (or Dutch) oven on the stove top over medium heat until meat is browned, stirring to crumble. Drain and return meat to pot. Add spaghetti sauce, broth, water, celery, sugar, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in Ro-tel, beans, carrot and cooked macaroni. Simmer about 10 minutes and serve.

I hope you enjoy one or more of these recipes.

Monday, October 26, 2009

A Weekend of Pumpkins, Birthday Cake and a New Puppy

Last Friday we drove to Oklahoma City to visit Son's family. Their little foster daughter was celebrating her 3rd birthday.

She requested a "Hannah Tannah" cake and Son made this one for her.

She was thrilled! They told me that she was "taking pictures" of her cake with her toy cell phone earlier in the day. How cute!

She had the biggest smile on her face and giggled and giggled when everyone sang "Happy Birthday" to her. I wish I could show you a picture of that but unfortunately I can't. After some miscommunication a few months ago I found out that it's a HUGE NO-NO for a picture of a foster child to be on the internet.

See the parts of letters and a hand print on the tablecloth? That's a tradition I started back when G1 celebrated his first birthday. Each kiddo has their own birthday tablecloth (we made them out of white sheets.) Then each year we put fabric paint on their hands and have them leave a set of their hand prints on the tablecloth. The year is painted by that set of hands. It's fun to watch their hands grow through the years. (A few years ago G1 and G2 decided they were too old for that sort of thing but it's a wonderful keepsake anyway.)

On Saturday morning we loaded up and went to buy pumpkins for Halloween.

G3 has very discriminating taste in Halloween pumpkins. I think he examined almost all of the pumpkins there.

G4 found this pumpkin and it looked like a pretty good one.

Eventually they decided on these pumpkins.

Of course their foster children got pumpkins too. I think they'll have a lot of fun decorating them for Halloween.

After AD paid for the pumpkins we were told that we could pick 2 smaller pumpkins to take with us for free. Halloween is very close and they had an over abundance of the smaller ones they were wanting to get rid of them.

G3 got to examine even more pumpkins for just the right 2.

Son is supposed to help the kids with pumpkin carving and send me pictures. It would really be interesting to have pictures of Son helping the kids because he's much like Kathy over at Four Dog Day. He thinks pumpkin guts are gross and yucky. I don't remember him being that way when he was younger though.

Son's family has 2 Schnauzers. Their names are Lightning and Sally (think Pixar Cars movie). A couple of weeks or so ago someone gave them this adorable Yorkie. His name is Mater and he's a cutie-patootie!

I think Lightning is a little jealous. Sally may be a little jealous too but I didn't get a good picture of her.

The dogs do get along well though. At one point they were all laying close to each on the couch asleep. It was the cutest thing ever.

A birthday and pumpkins and a new puppy. How much fun is that?

Friday, October 23, 2009

October Miracles - The Story

Six years ago today AD and I were headed for another great Witchy Weekend (see yesterday's post) at Compton Ridge Campground near Branson, MO. In previous years G1 and G2 had always gone with us because their Fall Break always fell the same week as Witchy Weekend. But Daughter and her family had recently moved to another area and the boys changed schools. Their new school’s Fall Break was a different week. Their family was going to drive over to meet us on Friday after the boys got out of school.

We’d always taken a “short cut” from our home to Branson that involved about 8 miles of 2-lane hilly, curvy roads between the two small Missouri towns of Galena and Reeds Springs.

Ever since they were little guys, G1 and G2 always had to be quiet as AD maneuvered our truck and 5th-wheel through that particular part of the trip and consequently the boys often teased me about the “quiet zone”.

We were nearing Galena – on a 2-lane fairly straight road - so I thought I’d call the boys and let them know we were getting ready to go through “the quiet zone”. Then they’d know just where we were.

I asked AD what time it was and he said a few minutes to 4:00 so I knew the boys would be home from school. I was looking down at my cell phone to dial (I hadn’t yet put their new number on speed dial) when AD said in a surprisingly normal, calm tone, “He’s going to hit us.” No sound of alarm in his voice, just a simple statement. I looked up just in time to see a car hit us, coming head-on, into the headlight on the driver’s side of our truck.

The point of impact is shown in this photo.

To me it seemed that the truck stopped dead in its tracks and gently start to roll. I thought I was thinking to myself “We’re going to roll over” but AD later told me I had actually said the words out loud. All I know is it was out-of-character for me to be extremely calm during something like this. It seemed to me that the truck just rolled over very, very slowly onto its side. No so much as a bump when it came to rest.

I was able to free myself from my seat belt with no difficulty at all but AD was stuck, hanging over me, in his seat belt and although we were tried as hard as we could the seat belt would not unlatch.

We were stuck in the truck. And. It. Was. Hot! That in itself was odd because after all it was October. The impact had caused the driver’s door to warp allowing for no escape and of course we were lying on our side so there was no getting out through my door. If you look closely you can see how the door warped out slightly. You can also see a mark where the outside mirror was ripped off the truck and slung into the trailer - the outline of the mirror there just above the "e" in Sportsmen.

Several people immediately came to help, a young woman who had been following the other driver, an older couple that had been following us and a man who’d been mowing his grass. They were all so very kind. The gentleman who had been mowing helped by contacting both Daughter and Son to tell them what had happened because our cell phones wouldn’t connect well. We were in a dead zone of sorts.

Then someone let us know that unfortunately the other driver hadn’t survived the wreck.

Eventually the EMTs (both women) arrived and AD persuaded one of them to give him her scissors so he could cut himself out of the seat belt. She, like me, thought he’d cut the strap and fall right on top on me. He assured us both that he would be careful and in the end he managed not to fall on me.

Then the firemen came on the scene. They wanted to wait until their other truck arrived so they could use their “jaws of life” to extricate us from the truck.

But AD was ready to be out of there! As I said before it was an unseasonably hot day for October in the Ozarks and the only air coming in was through that little warped place in the door frame.

AD pointed out to the men that the windshield was already broken so if they didn’t mind, couldn’t they just pull it out and then we would be able to exit the truck. They agreed but only after they secured the truck so it didn’t roll the rest of the way over. We were soon outside the truck.

A few minutes later as AD talked to the Highway Patrolman that worked the wreck and took digital pictures of our truck and trailer, the patrolman told AD he could take all the photos of our truck and trailer but not to take pictures of the other car. I'm sure that had to do with privacy laws or something but AD only wanted pictures of our vehicle for insurance purposes.

Eventually, we were transported to a hospital in Springfield to be checked out. AD was on a back board because he'd mentioned to the EMTs that his back was hurting a little bit. It was a long ride to Springfield on a back board!

I had 2 bruises, one very small near my elbow, the other about the size of my fist under my left breast caused from the seat belt, and 4 extremely tiny scratches (probably from slivers of glass when the wind shield was pulled out). AD had 1 small bruise from hanging in the seat belt.

Daughter, her husband and the boys came to get us. She and Son had both called the campground to let them know we wouldn’t be arriving as scheduled and what had happened.

Those wonderful campground owners, who had been like family to us for many years, told Daughter they were keeping a room for us so we would have a place to stay the night in case we needed it. As it turned out we did. We had to meet with an insurance adjuster the next day, remove all our belongings from the truck and trailer, rent a U-haul to get everything home, etc.

These are pictures of the truck and trailer in the lot where the wreckers hauled them. There were actually 3 wreckers sent out. The owner of the wrecker service told AD that normally when a wreck happens like this (NORMALLY when a wreck happens like this - how many wrecks like this happen in that area?) the trailer will split in half and it takes 3 wreckers to haul everything away. One for the truck and 2 for the trailer. When we opened the door to the trailer it was as if a tornado had hit the inside of it. If the trailer had come apart our belongings would have been strewn across the countryside.

After leaving the hospital later that evening we stopped to get something to eat. Everything seemed surreal to me - going out to eat when just a few hours earlier we’d been involved in a wreck that ended a man’s life.

I saw God’s hand in all of the events that day. Just some of the ways I know He was in control and there with us and He blessed us -

G1 and G2 were not with us.

We normally stopped in Monett, MO to take a bathroom break but didn’t that day. I honestly believe we were meant to “take the hit” so other people wouldn’t be hurt. Our truck and trailer were big and could take that kind of hit. If we’d stopped for that potty break we would surely have come upon a terrible accident involving other people and the outcome would have been very different.

Before we left on the trip AD told me to put my digital camera in the truck with us that day in case I saw any photo opportunities along the way. Normally I always packed it in the trailer. AD was able to take pictures for our insurance agent.

I was trying to dial the phone taking my attention away from the road. If I had been watching the road, I know I would have screamed, stiffened up and we could have been hurt much, much worse.

The phone reception in that area was not good. I didn’t get through to the boys. They would have freaked out if they’d heard what was happening over the phone.

I truly believe God and His angels eased our truck and trailer over. The ditch we landed in was fairly deep and I didn’t feel so much as a bump as the truck rolled over onto its side and came to rest.

AD's door was jammed shut. If it would have opened we would have tried to get out that way and the truck would have probably rolled on over on its roof.

The young woman that had followed the other driver was not injured. She told us she had been following him for several miles, trying to contact the highway patrol to advise them of his erratic driving, and at one point she even tried to get him to pull off the road herself. She could have been seriously hurt or killed and she was the young mother of a small boy (he wasn’t with her). She said she saw the man almost hit 3 other cars. Although we hadn’t taken any real notice of the car in front of us she said it was a small car carrying 5 or 6 young people. They could have been killed if he’d hit their vehicle.

The older couple just behind us, also in a small car, said they knew they would have been killed had the man hit them instead of us.

AD had both his legs extended during the collision because he had both the brakes on and the clutch in. The floorboard underneath him buckled really badly. His legs should have probably both been broken but were not harmed at all.

The window of my door was not broken or even cracked but the back passenger window shattered, probably from hitting a rock. If we’d rolled over just a few seconds earlier I could have been badly cut.

God made sure there were plenty of people (our earthly angels) there, willing and able to help us.

The accident occurred just before 4pm. Back then 4pm was the time Daughter got off work. She was just leaving work when her phone rang. Had the accident happened just a few minutes later we wouldn’t have been able to contact her for at least an hour.

The minor scratches and bruising we received surprised even the EMTs.

I thank God for guiding AD's hands on the steering wheel through the collision. The Highway Patrolman told AD that he handled the truck perfectly.

AD told me sometime later that the one thing he kept thinking was that the front of the trailer would come through the back of the truck (it had a short bed). I’m so thankful God kept that thought from my mind.

God surely watched over our family that day. I am so grateful to be in His care. We weren’t at fault but it saddens me that the other driver's family lost someone they loved. I pray God continues to comfort them.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

October Miracles - The Background

Awhile back I said that I would be relating a story of miracles that happened to us in October, 2003. It was 6 years ago tomorrow – Thursday, October 23.

But before I share that story, here's a bit of background to get started.

Our family had camped at Compton Ridge Campground, a family owned campground near Branson, for many years. Enough years so that we considered them family. When we would go there to camp it was really like going home. The Sims' family holds a special place in our hearts.

The Sims' family had a tradition of holding a big Halloween celebration each year either the weekend before Halloween or on Halloween weekend if October 31 fell on a Saturday. (The photos throughout this post are from various years.)

There were always lots of things to do for the kids – pumpkin carving contests and

lots of games for the kids. The games varied from year to year like a hoop shoot contest or a spider web weaving contest or a candy count guessing game.

One year they had a mummy wrap competition.

Other years they had hoop shooting contests, bicycle/tricycle/wagon parades, cake walks. There was always a lot of fun things to do.

Every year there was a costume contest with several different age groups.

I don't know the 'Smores kids but this is one of my favorite pictures. That's Daughter in the nun's costume with the adult contestants. She dressed up intending to embarrass her boys. Boy, did she get fooled - and it wasn't even April! Not only weren't the G1 and G2 embarrassed, she was one of the winners.

The last few years before the Sims sold the campground, a new competition was added to the weekend events - a cooking competition for the adults with a different category each year.

One year the category was pies. I won 3rd place for this pecan pie (it was made using Dear Abby's recipe

Cakes were a category another year. There were a lot of wonderful cakes entered that year. I made an Italian Cream Cake and won 2nd place.

The year the category was soups and stews I managed to nab 1st place for Pasta Fagioli. I'll have to share that recipe with you sometime.

One of the most fun - and competitive - competitions was for best decorated campsite. I have lots and lots of pictures of the campsites over the years in my files. Here are a few.

Each campsite got to vote for their favorite. The prize for the winner was usually a night or two of free camping for the following season. The winner was announced at the big “pig roast” pot luck dinner on Saturday evening. The owners provided the meat, tea, water and utensils and all the campers would bring 2 pot luck dishes to share. There was always lots and lots of good food!

After dinner there was trick-or-treating for the kiddos. Trick-or-treating like it was back when I was little. Most of the campers came year after year and everybody pretty much knew everyone else. So there were no worries about tainted candy or trick-or-treating at a house you weren't familiar with.

These 2 boys were the cutest little guys. And very polite, making sure to say "thank you" after we gave them their treats.

G1 and G2 used to dress up but that was before I had a digital camera. One year Daughter and I made them motorcycles out of cardboard boxes and they were bikers. G2 won for his age group that year. Another year G1 was a tube of toothpaste (we used a lampshade for the cap) and he won for his age group.

Witchy Weekend was so popular that to insure your spot you needed to make a reservation a year in advance.

Sadly, a few years ago the Sims made the decision to sell the campground. We camped there a couple of more times but it just wasn't the same. There's a definite difference between a family owned business and one that's owned corporately.

But we have a ton of memories to draw from of the many fun times spent there.

Tomorrow I'll post what happened in 2003. It's a story of many miracles for our family but there is a tragedy involved.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A Witch and Pumpkins and Spiders - Oh, My!

The few Halloween decorations are in their places now so I thought I'd share them with you.

A trio of pumpkins are smiling on top of my Hoosier cabinet.

You've no doubt heard of the Headless Horseman. Well, here's my Handless Witch. When I took her out of the box her left hand was missing and I can't find it for the life of me. She's so cute though that I just had to put her on display. (I also own a "Venus de Milo" Barbie Christmas ornament but that's a story for another time.)

I bought a spider web tablecloth a few years ago, put it away and forgot about it. It surfaced when we moved and I made sure to store it in the china cabinet so it could be used this year.

The crystal dish on the table was a gift from a friend and according to the box it came in, is a pie dish. It's where I put the brownies or cookies that I bake for G1 and G2.

Silk sunflowers and pumpkin cups sit on top of my computer cabinet.

Halloween noisemakers - 2 are old and the others are newer - a spider that used to play a spooky sound and more silk sunflowers sit on top of my pie safe. I don't use it for pies either. It's where I store some of my cookbooks.

That's about the extent of my Halloween decorations this year.

Oh, my! I just remembered my Haunted House and Mickey Mouse ornaments that hang on it. It is way cute! Son gave them to me as a birthday present a couple of years ago. (No, my birthday is not in October, it's in September.) I know right where everything is so I need to get them out today and put them on display.

One more thing. While going through my Halloween boxes I also found some Halloween beanies - not the ones by Ty although I do have some of those - but kids' hats.

I plopped one on Elliott's head as he was laying on his bed and snapped a picture. He's thinking, "Oh, no! I thought Mikey took care of the whole Halloween dress up thing the other day."

Smoke just glared at me from underneath the vampire fangs.

Dani just looked pitiful. You know, I think one of my grade school pictures was taken in my Brownie uniform and I had a similar look on my face.

Not to worry. Elliott, Smoke and Dani all got their much deserved treats. And they didn't even have to put on a whole costume - this year.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Help With The Decorations

This guy (or gal) showed up to help with my Halloween decorating.

I wasn't so hospitable as to invite it inside so it left.

You see, I'm not a spider person.

Neither is Son.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Halloween Decorating

I love this time of year and I love Halloween. What I love most about Halloween is the costumes - not the gross, gory ones so much - but the ones little kids dress up in. And I love the decorations.

When our kids were little one of the things I always looked forward to was making costumes for them. There were clown costumes, Raggedy Ann and Andy costumes, Indian costumes, Sylvester and Tweety Bird among others.

Daughter was Little Miss Muffet one year. I really liked that costume. It had the cutest bonnet that I attached a plastic spider to.

Son was Yoda one year and that costume - without the mask - served double and triple duty for a variety of other costume needs that came up over the years. It was even a Christmas shepherd costume for a church Christmas program.

I used to decorate a bunch for Halloween. Now that our kids are grown, Daughter's boys are teenagers and Son's kids live 3+ hours away, I don't decorate quite so much.

But I do put a few things out.

This year I started with Mikey. I found his Halloween tie at the dollar store and thought it would be perfect for him. It even has a button that you can push for a spooky sound.

He was even patient enough to wear a witch's hat long enough for me to snap a couple of photos.

After the photo shoot he deserved a treat for his patience with his human mom's need to put a costume on someone. AD awarded him with one of his very favorite treats of all - a Greenie.

Good boy, Mikey. Good boy!